Sunday, January 31, 2010

Back at the wheel

After finishing my Miralda's Triangular Shawl and realizing just how much fun it was to knit with my own handspun, I did the only logical thing: started another project at the wheel.

13.1 ounces of BFL top dyed by Chris of Briar Rose Fibers is slowly but surely turning into this:

I'm shooting for a loftier yarn that I have made before with BFL fibers. It's a bit of a challenge getting the right balance between keeping the twist loose and airy while still having enough twist that the singles don't start to break when subjected to a firm tug. I did pretty well with the first two skeins but the singles in my third (of four total) was spun a bit more tightly than the first two. I'll have to watch out for that on the last skein.

I hope you don't mind looking at one last pic of this yarn. I'm so pleased with how it turned out. Hopefully a little soak in some warm water will help loosen up that third skein. If nothing else, alternating between skeins as I knit will help to even out any inconsistencies.

What am I planning on doing with all of this? Unlike much of my handspun, which just sits around looking pretty while I figure out what on earth I am going to make with this, I am actually spinning this fiber with a project in mind: Coraline (ravelry link). With the first three skeins coming in at 240, 280, and 244 yards each, I'm right on track to meet the yardage requirements. Yay!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Scarf Kick

As I looked through my flagged photos in iPhoto, I realized that the blog is about a week and a half behind my knitting needles (and spinning wheel, for that matter). I've been doing a lot of sweater knitting and spinning lately, but right now I've got two more scarves to show off.

Pattern: Wisp from the Summer 2007 Knitty (pattern here)
Yarn: 1 skein malabrigo lace, colorway Vaa
Needles: size 3 (3.25mm) Addi Lace circular
Mods: no buttons/button holes but otherwise knit according to pattern until I ran out of yarn.

Timeline? I'm pretty sure I started this little scarf back in August or September and I finished the knitting sometime in late November. Then I let it languish in my knitting basket until I blocked it a week or two ago. This was definitely not a project that I worked on consistently - just something I would occasionally throw in my bag to work on during my commute.

Despite my lack of commitment to this project, I absolutely love the malabrigo laceweight. It's like candy in my LYS - bold, beautiful colors and inexpensive enough that I can justify picking up a skein whenever a color really catches my eye.

This pattern showcases the malabrigo beautifully, letting the softness of the fibers and the subtlety of the colors do all of the work.

Are you up for another scarf?

I've been calling this one "handspun scarflet" in my head since that's exactly what it is. I started out with this (490 yards of navajo-plied BFL top from Spunky Eclectic, roughly fingering weight):

Originally I thought about knitting Multnomah (Ravelry link), but I wasn't thrilled with the center increases. Instead I decided to use the same pattern components - garter center and old shale edging (I modified the lace to be a true garter lace with no purl rows) - and the basic shawl construction used in Evelyn Clark's triangular shawls. Think Swallowtail, Flower Basket, and Shetland Triangle.

NB - the colors are most accurate in this pic.

Even though the project was so simple, I had a lot of fun knitting it. There's just something special about knitting with handspun. I know I said that last time, too, but it's true!

I'm planning on making another one of these with some Dream in Color Smooshy that would look great on my sister. If there's any interest, I'll write up a little pattern for the scarflet (free, of course, since there's nothing revolutionary here).

I'm not the only one here at chez Tinks and Frogs who gets a big kick out of the scarflet. I had set it down on the bed for a moment and when I turned back around, I found this:

After reassuring myself that no claws were near the scarflet (Nayyir came to us front-declawed), I did what any normal person would do: I grabbed my camera. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

SSKs and YOs and Nupps, oh my

There was a delightful confluence of events this weekend: I finished a shawl, the sun came out, and the DH was around to take pictures.

Pattern: Miralda's Triangular Shawl (ravelry link) from Nancy Bush's book Knitted Lace of Estonia
Yarn: handspun alpaca 2-ply laceweight spun this past fall out of alpaca top from the Frontier Fiber Mill (this is the source of the lovely yarn that I used for my Staghorn)
Needles: size 5 (3.75mm) 47" Addi Lace
Finished Size: 60 inch wingspan
Started: December 27, 2009
Finished: January 16, 2010

This one was a lot of fun to knit. Yes, I know I often say that but the stitch combinations alone were really interesting on this shawl. I've worked nupps (pronounced "noops," according to Nancy Bush during a Knitting Daily appearance) several times before and I always get a kick out of them but there were two new stitches that I had never seen before. The first is a delightful little cross stitch that serves as  a border to the diamond/nupp section. For some reason, this little pattern makes me thing of anemones and is probably my favorite stitch in the shawl.

The other new stitch is in the center (or top) section of the shawl. It creates a woven-looking fabric without a lot of elasticity and adds some nice contrast to the other textures of the shawl. An added bonus: it looks tricky but is actually quite easy to work.

I've always enjoyed knitting lace shawls - you get to learn many different techniques and you can get a lot of pleasure for relatively little yarn money ($10 for a skein of malabrigo lace, anyone?). All that said, they're often too old fashioned or dramatic looking for my style. Naturally, I was delighted to learn that you could wear a shawl like this:

Now that's something I'll actually wear.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

What's next?

My knitting life feels a bit empty now that I've finished both the secret project and Lismore (or The Starmore, as I've been thinking about it). Perhaps that is because I've been doing a fair amount of spinning over the past week or so.


turned into this

300 yards of navajo-plied 80/20 merino/mohair top.  The color is more of a mix between the top pic and the bottom ones. It's a navy base with streaks of yellows and reds.

What's on the wheel right now? I'm working my way through 13.1 oz of BFL top dyed by Chris of Briar Rose Fibers. If everything works out, I should have enough for a Coraline (ravelry link). I split the top into four pieces to turn into four 2-ply skeins. Each of the four pieces was then split in half. I predrafted one of the halves all in one pieces. The second half I split into four or five sections lengthwise before predrafting. One ply will have long color repeats to contrast with shorter repeats in the other ply. Hopefully this will help blend the colors for a more even knitted piece. Take a look at what I've got so far:

I think it's time to go sit back down at my wheel.

Sunday, January 10, 2010


Pattern: Lismore from Alice Starmore's Celtic Collection
Yarn: Hebridean 3-ply, purchased as a kit from Virtual Yarns
Needles: size 4 (3.5mm) circular needles for the body and size 3 (3.25mm) circular needles for the ribbing
Gauge: 5.5 spi and 6 rpi in stranded colorwork
Size: large (from the kit)
Started: January 1, 2009
Finished: January 5, 2010

Mods: Only two real mods on this project. First, I decided to switch out the high turtleneck from the pattern in favor of a more modest crew neck using the pattern colors as indicated. Second, I lengthened the sleeves and modified the rate of decreases because my row gauge was more compressed than what the pattern called for. You can read more about that little adventure here.

I pretty much knit this pattern as written and now that it is done, I have mixed feelings about doing so. When I bought the kit, the description stated that I would have enough yarn to make the sweater and a generous swatch. But I had no idea how much extra yarn that would be (a lot, it turns out). So I decided to work the pattern as written and trust in the genius that is Alice Starmore.

The design is absolutely beautiful, don't get me wrong, but the next time I knit a stranded colorwork piece for the DH I'm going to update the fit. Drop shoulders just aren't that flattering. Plus, there's a ton of extra fabric there and it would be really nice to cut the knitting time a little bit. I'll have to pull out the fantastic book Knitting in the Old Way by Priscilla Gibson-Roberts and take a look at some of her suggestions. I think the saddle shoulder from the other Christmas sweater looked very nice on the DH and a set in sleeve may work well, too. Really, I just want more structure in the shoulder and a touch more length in the torso. Perhaps it's time to knit Gudrun Johnston's pattern Audrey in Unst (Ravelry link) to learn her technique for set-in sleeves with short-rows.

The actual knitting part of this project was a bit of a challenge. Normally fair isle patterns involve geometric designs that are symmetric on at least one axis and have relatively short (and thus easily memorizable) repeats. Not so with Lismore. Each repeat is a 50 x 50 square chart, only part of which (the floral pattern in the center) is symmetric across both axes. This meant that I was staring at a chart for nearly every row of the sweater, making for some slow knitting. The patterns had a logical progression, so I could tell when something was out of place and go back to fix it, but I never managed to memorize them enough to free myself from the chart.

I have to say that the yarns for this project were an absolute joy to knit with. I have never seen such depth of color in another commercially available yarn. Each color is a glorious heather with an array of highlights and shadows. I think my favorite one is "sundew," which lies in the two rows just above and below the red rows in the pattern. These yarns are not cheap but, especially if you can catch the exchange rate at the right point, they are well worth the price. An added bonus: the fibers are very sticky so you won't need to reinforce your steeks before cutting.

Finishing this sweater took quite a while, in large part because I had neglected to take care of loose ends as I was knitting. Ends are never fun to deal with but they can be especially troublesome when knitting stranded colorwork. One option is to spit-splice different colors together at the end of the row. This has the advantage of greatly reducing the number of ends you'll need to weave in but can leave the pattern looking muddy at that one side. Even though the Hebridean 3-ply would have spit-spliced very well, I didn't like the idea of blurring the pattern. A better option would be to weave in your ends every couple of rows. I did this a little bit at the beginning and then got tired of dealing with the ends. (Note to self: next time, just deal with it.) So I was confronted with several hundred ends waiting for me once I had bound off my last stitch and was anxious to be done with the project. That took several days to take care of and then finishing off the steek edges took another day or so. Then blocking and drying for a couple of days after that. But now it's done and it looks pretty good both inside and out.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Almost There

I don't have a modeled shot yet, so this is just a teaser. I'll do a real FO post next week once the DH has had a chance to try the sweater on. For now, what else can I say but "voila":

That's right. I finished Lismore this week. I wove in the last end (trust me, there were a lot) on Sunday evening, gave the sweater a little bath in some Soak, and set it out to dry. Thank goodness the sweater was dry by yesterday afternoon since we had a friend coming over for dinner and I needed my dining table back!

I have plenty to say about this project but I'm going to wait until the FO post. How about some gratuitous pics instead?

An inside-out shot or two?

Can you stand one more?

More on this project later. The DH and I are heading off to Maine tomorrow for our last round of holiday visiting. Our trip includes an excursion to Halcyon Yarn in Bath on Saturday. It should be a lot of fun. Just cross your fingers that we'll be able to get out of Chicago before the worst of the snow hits.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

One Down

My trusty Yarn Harlot page-a-day calendar offered some sage advice a couple of weeks ago: there are 12 days of Christmas. And so on the 9th day of Christmas, I finished the first of the two sweaters that I am gifting to my husband.

Pattern: EZ's Saddle Shouldered Aran Cardigan (Spun Out #49/ Wool Gathering #63)
Yarn: 7.25 skeins of Berroco Ultra Alpaca, colorway Mahogany Mix
Needles: size 7 (4.5mm) circular needles for the body and sleeves, size 5 (3.75mm) circular needles for the garter stitch edging
Buttons from The Button Drawer. This was the first time that I've used this particular button shop and I was very pleased with my experience. They have many options - by far the most metal, wood, shell, bone, etc. options that I've seen on any button website. I will definitely be ordering from this place again.

Mods: Oh my, this whole thing was a mod, so read on.

My original idea for this sweater involved this pattern from the Fall 2009 Twist Collective and handspun yarn. The DH and I drove out to The Fold in early fall in a search for a nice silvery brown BFL or cormo fiber. We found a color that we both liked, but the shop didn't have nearly enough to make a man's cabled sweater. (This was also the trip where I almost bought a second spinning wheel, but that's another story). So we turned around and swung by a yarn shop in the city on our way home, where we picked up this lovely russet colored yarn.

I've been a big fan of the Ultra Alpaca for a long time now. It has a lovely heathered look and the colors just shimmer. Here's a quick pic of my first project using this yarn: a vest that I knit for my mother some three or four years ago.

My headaches with my first pattern choice are chronicled here, so take a minute and look if you are interested.

The DH was helpfully out of town (very convenient when one is working on a secret project) and I was scrambling to find another pattern that would work with the Ultra Alpaca when I stumbled onto this project by Jared Flood of Brooklyn Tweed fame. I had a gauge swatch. Sort of. Ok, not really, but more on that later. Naturally, I jumped right in.

I looked at Jared's pics on ravelry and decided which cable motifs I wanted to use: fishbone and sheepfold, both of which I had in EZ's book The Opinionated Knitter. I then proceeded to sketch out a quick diagram of where I wanted the cables to go, using Jared's pics as a guide. What was my key number, that all-important figure for all of EZ's sweaters? Well, my gauge was 5spi in stockinette (I think - I hadn't actually washed the little swatch that I made for sweater attempt #1) and I wanted a 40" chest size. But I knew that cables take up more stitches than stockinette to create the same circumference and that my husband was a bit wider than the most recent chest measurement that I had, taken before we were married, so I blithely threw a few more stitches into the sketch.

In version one (or is that sweater 2.1?) I started with the garter edging on the bottom, but forgot to decrease the stitch count. I then added insult to injury by not using a continental purl stitch after each section of stockinette to prevent the last knit stitches from gaping. Of course I realized all of this - the peplum-like band at the bottom and the truly untidy stitches above - in the middle of my second of three classes one evening. Knitting when you know you are just going to have to rip everything is awful. Not knitting during those classes would have been even worse. So on I knit, and I promptly frogged the entire thing the next day. Frogging wasn't all bad. It let me fix the staghorn cable panel on the back, switching out a narrower staghorn and three columns of twisted stitches on either side for the panel you see above.

EZ's pattern, like most of her work, is a guide more than a pattern, leaving a great deal of flexibility to the knitter. I followed the pattern in terms of construction: steeked front (using Eunny Jang's great instructions for a crocheted steek), saddle shoulder, and garter neck and button bands. I also used garter stitch for the bottom and sleeve cuffs as an alternative to ribbing.

However, I did made two notable mods. First, I added a bit of waist shaping. Starting about 8 or so inches up the body, I periodically added stitches along the side moss stitch panels. Anne Hanson over at Knitspot has used this technique on sweaters for her husband to great effect and I got the idea from her. I certainly didn't measure the DH to figure out the best placements for the increases (tough to do when the project is a secret) but it seemed to work out pretty well.

The second mod involved a bit of short row shaping on the back of the neck to raise the neckline . If you scroll back up to the back shot, you'll see that the neckline looks straight. That's because the pattern actually dips a bit because the shoulder saddles are higher than the back, but the short rows raise the neckband up in back to compensate.

For most of my projects, I do a great deal of planning and swatching to make sure that everything will (should) work out in the end. I did not do that on this project - it was more a "fly by the seat of your pants" sort of job. I'm happy that it all worked out, that it fits my husband, and (most importantly) that he likes it. While I was knitting, I was constantly worried that the sweater would be too snug. With all of the ribbing (columns of twisted stitches), the piece looked pretty thin on the needles. And then when I wet blocked the sweater, it occurred to me that I had no idea how much it would lengthen once wet. Thankfully, the DH assures me that the sleeves are just the right length.

Next time I am definitely knitting a swatch.

Friday, January 1, 2010

A Year in Review

I didn't think I had knit very much this year. Or rather, I didn't think that I had finished very much in 2009, so I was a bit surprised when I saw that I had completed 32 projects in the past year. Not bad, if I do say so myself.

Here is a brief look at what has happened here at Tinks and Frogs:

2009 Finished Objects

4 sweaters: Victoria, Alpaca Raglan, Staghorn, and the Barbara Walker Sweater

3 hats: Seaman's Cap, Shedir, and Claudia (which was gifted away too quickly for me to remember to snap a picture)

2 Toddler Gifts: the Owl Dress and Tomten

6 pairs of fingerless mitts (5 of them look like the garter mitts shown first)

2 Blankets: Bear Claw and Hemlock Ring

7 shawls/scarves: Cluaranach, Fiddlehead Scarf, Madli's Scarf, Ene's Scarf, Peak's Island Hood, Handspun Scarflet, Fir Cone Cowl

And 8 pairs of socks (not counting all of the single socks waiting for me to knit their mates)

What does 2010 hold for Tinks and Frogs? Well, for one thing, I would like to blog more and more consistently. I have some fun projects planned for this year: Forecast and Miralda's Triangular Scarf are on the needles right now and there are more to come. My two giant Christmas gifts from 2009 are almost done. The secret project just needs its buttons sewn on and Lismore has about 100 or so more ends to weave in. I hope to have FO pictures of both of those soon.

I hope you all have a happy and productive new year. Thanks for reading.